The admission only comes after about a full minute of teeth-pulling from CNBC’s Joe Kernen, and only after Howard Dean tries to keep impugning Mitt Romney’s integrity, but even the former DNC chair has to grudgingly acknowledge that the game is all but up for Harry Reid and his baseless, reckless charges of tax fraud. Dean halfheartedly trots out the complaint that Romney lied by overpaying his taxes, but Kernen laughs him into a rather lengthy silence (transcript by The Daily Caller):
KERNEN: Governor, my first question is you’ve seen these now — my very first question, I’m going to ask this a lot tonight. You’ve got a guy in society who paid $2 million in taxes, gave $4 million to charity. Should we, A) wish we had more guys like this in society or B) wish we didn’t have any guys like this in society? Is he a net positive if you pay $2 million in taxes? His overall rate on what he either gave to charity or taxes is about 40 percent. Governor, good or bad?
DEAN: That’s not the issue. The issue is how truthful is he and the problem is he did go back and manipulate the tax rate list in the past year. And NBC ran a clip on the evening news tonight of him saying — I don’t know, last July or something…
KERNEN: Is that right? I know where you’re going.
DEAN: …’if I paid more taxes than I should have I’m not qualified to be president.’ Well, he did.
KERNEN: So he paid more, so you guys are going to now nail him on paying more taxes than he had to when he just stays within the law and pays what he’s supposed to pay by law? You don’t like that and you accuse him of evasion and paying no taxes; now that he paid less than he had to, now you’ll get him on that? That’s a gotcha moment, Howard?
DEAN: The issue is his credibility. He should have showed the tax returns.
KERNEN: How’s Harry Reid’s credibility at this point?
DEAN: I’d say it’s in some trouble, but I’d say Mitt’s not out of the woods yet.
Later, Kernen teases Dean by noting his lengthy silence, and Dean responds by saying that the Obama campaign doesn’t begrudge Romney his wealth — and James Pethokoukis can’t restrain his laughter, saying the campaign is all about begrudging wealth, especially Romney’s. Stick around for American Crossroads’ Jonathan Collegio, who wins the argument at the end of this excerpt by pointing out the political news of the day on the two major occasions when Team Obama attacked Romney for his tax returns.